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What study options do I have after SPM / IGCSE?

by on February 13, 2020 | Top Stories

What study options do I have after SPM / IGCSE? -

The many study options for students like you

You will be pleasantly surprised by the variety of study opportunities you can find. You will also discover that there are many study routes after SPM/IGCSE/O-level. For example, you can take a pre-university programme that can lead you to a bachelor degree and subsequently, postgraduate studies.

Study options are abundant in Malaysia and you can choose from public or private educational institutions, both which offer a wide range of programmes from certificate to postgraduate levels. The table below will help you find the study pathway that suits you best at tertiary level. Note that this depends on the highest academic qualification you currently have and the qualification that you want to acquire.

Table 6.1: Check-list - Which pathway suits you best?

Your check-list for full-time study options in Malaysia
With SPM/IGCSE/O level or Year 11 With A-levels or Year 12 or its equivalent With a bachelor degree or its equivalent
A. Go for pre-U studies:
  • UK GCE A levels, Australian and Canadian pre-university programmes and International Baccalaureate Diploma
  • Pre-university and university foundation programmes offered by private higher educational institutions
B. Go for certificate and diploma level qualifications
  • Certificate programmes
  • Skills certificates
  • Diploma programmes
  • Semi-professional qualifications
C. Go for ADP
  • American degree transfer program (4+0 or 2+2)
A. Go for a bachelor degree or a professional qualification
  • Year 1 of a bachelor degree programme
  • Transnational education degree
  • Professional qualifications such as ACCA, MIA, etc
B. Go for diploma level qualifications
  • Diploma programmes
  • Semi-professional qualification programmes
C. What is next with a diploma qualification?
  • Go for year 2 of a bachelor degree programme
A. Go for postgraduate studies
  • Postgraduate certificate or diploma
  • Master’s degree
  • PhD degree
B. Go for professional qualifications
  • such as ACCA, CIMA, etc.
Note: International students can enrol in full-time programmes only.
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What study options do I have after SPM / IGCSE?

Source: StudyMalaysia Research Team

Study options after IGCSE/SPM

The following diagrams will give you an overview of study options for students with IGCSE/O-level or SPM qualifications.

What study options do I have after SPM / IGCSE?

Option 1: Pre-university route for a bachelor degree

If you’re exploring the route from IGCSE/SPM to pre-U, you’ll be happy to know that there are many options to choose from. The general entry requirement to enter pre-U is 5 credits at IGCSE/ SPM level but some programmes may have specific subject requirements. The study duration at pre-U level is between 10 and 18 months. This is the shortest route to a bachelor degree programme.


  • UK A-levels, and Australian and Canadian pre-university programmes
  • Pre-university and university foundation programmes offered by private higher educational institutions

After completing a pre-u programme, you’ll be eligible to apply to enter year 1 of a bachelor degree programme. Bachelor degrees typically take 3 years to complete; however, some programmes are longer—engineering and pharmacy programmes take 4 years, while medicine and dentistry take 5 years. After pre-U, you can also opt to pursue a professional accounting course such as ACCA.

Here are the types of pre-university qualification you can acquire in Malaysia and subsequently, a bachelor degree.

Many types of pre-university qualification in Malaysia and route to a bachelor degree worldwide

What study options do I have after SPM / IGCSE?

Option 2: Diploma route

For the diploma route, the general entry requirement is a minimum of 3 credits at SPM level. However, some courses such as Diploma in Nursing has a higher entry requirement, i.e. 5 credits including maths and science. The duration of study is usually 2 years but some programmes are 2.5 years. After you complete your diploma, you can join the workforce. Alternatively, if you wish to pursue a bachelor degree, you can usually obtain an exemption from year 1, and enter year 2 of the degree course.

Option 3: Certificate route

If you do not have the required IGCSE/SPM grades to pursue a pre-U programme or diploma, you can still consider studying for a certificate. The entry requirement is a minimum of 1 credit at IGCSE/SPM level. A certificate programme is a skills-based course, usually for 1 year. It allows you to join the workforce upon successful completion. Another option is to further your studies by pursuing a diploma programme (note that there will be no exemption and you enter year 1 of diploma course).

Option 4: American Degree Transfer Program

To pursue an American Degree Program (ADP) after IGCSE/ SPM, you’ll need a minimum of 5 credits and a pass in English. It usually takes 4 years to complete the ADP which can be done entirely in Malaysia or through the 2+2 route (i.e. 2 years (60 credits hours) in Malaysia and 2 years (60 credits in the US).

ADP allows students to study the first part of their bachelor degree at a private higher education institution in Malaysia. Students typically spend the first two years in Malaysia and the next two years in the US. It is also possible to transfer your study credits to universities in countries other than the US. Some institutions that offer ADP also have an option for students to complete the entire programme in Malaysia.

Option 5: Semi-professional qualifications

Another option after SPM is to study for a semi-professional qualification. These qualifications are usually awarded by the examination body of professional associations of a specific skill or trade. The pathway after completing a semi-professional course is to continue with a professional qualification or join the work force. Examples of some of these semi-professional bodies are Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) – UK; ABE-UK, LCCIUK, etc. ACCA-UK also offers the CAT course for those with SPM qualification. The general entry requirement for these qualifications is SPM or its equivalent.

TIPS - Factors to consider when choosing a study route that leads to a higher education qualification

Your next important step is to find out what study route you need and how you plan to gain a relevant qualification to match your choice of dream career.

To begin, here are some points which will help you consider the education pathway that would be most suited for you and your needs.

First, would you want to pursue an academic based programme or would you prefer a vocational course which requires more hands-on work? Your answer may lie somewhere in between the two choices but having an idea of what type of programme you prefer will help point you to courses that are more fitting to your nature.

Second, you’ll need to consider the minimum qualifications you need for the future career you’ve chosen. Some careers may require a certificate or diploma while more competitive positions may call for a bachelor’s degree. There are also careers that require you to have a professional qualification, membership, or licence to practise in that field.

Third, there are other factors to consider before making a decision. For example, you should scrutinise the coursework and curriculum of a particular course as different institutions could offer very different course methodologies and curricula.

Fourth, you would also need to plan your budget to finance your higher education.

Fifth, chapters in this book will help you get a better understanding of the different levels of higher education you can pursue and help you decide on the best option for you. You can also seek assistance from us on what to study in Malaysia by completing this enquiry form online: AskStudymalaysia

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What study options do I have after SPM / IGCSE?
  • Education Guide Malaysia (15th edition)
  • Study in Malaysia Handbook (10th international edition)

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